Social Development: A trait learned through Positive Youth Development

by Robbie P.

In today’s society, a lot of us see the term “social” and automatically associate it with video games or social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. When I am referring to the term social, I am talking about literally physically interacting with one another as human beings. Defined from the Cambridge English Dictionary (2016), Social is an occasion when the members of a group or organization meet informally to enjoy themselves. In the context of sport and recreation, examples of this could be sports clubs, scouts/guides and youth clubs. I myself hardly hear about these 3 clubs nowadays, and I think part of the reason is because youth have a wide and varied access to technology. I am not saying technology isn’t great, in fact, it’s one of the best things to happen on this planet. However, it has its weaknesses and social interaction (in person) with one another is a major weakness, especially amongst the current generation.

As a youth soccer coach, I love seeing the kids playing the sport with a smile on their face. Sports is a chance to get away from the outside world and get involved in a physical activity that you enjoy. In my short time as a coach, I can already see the differences in the youth’s behaviours when they are participating and when they are not. It’s like there’s a sudden flick of a switch and they begin to interact with one another. But when that 2 hour time period comes to an end, its back to the screens again.

Social Development Barriers

Laziness. Notice how I kept it short and sweet. This is mainly because I do not want to go off on a tangent about the other issues such as cyber bullying etc. The youth in today’s society have probably the laziest attitude up to this date. There is no will to go and partake in physical activity, or simply go out with your friends to hang out (unless your having a few cold ones). Motivation concerns energy, direction, persistence and equifinality (Deci & Ryan, 2000). You could argue about the cost of equipment for certain sports, but there are many activities which can be performed with next to zero equipment and are very enjoyable. Take the game of tag for example. Have you ever saw an adult play tag? They have the biggest smile on their face because it brings back memories of them as kids, but it’s also very fun and physically engaging.

Social Development Pros

Engaging in social interactions with others throughout youth can set you up for life. The skills learned from social interaction are some things we take for granted. A lot of people suffer a fear of public speaking. Have they ever thought that maybe in their sports teams that they constantly communicate openly to the group and add their opinions to the development of the team/club. I understand that maybe not everyone is as confident at standing up and speaking in a large crowd, but what if it was one of their human rights that was endangered?  Would they just sit there and let it unfold, I very much doubt so. The point I am getting at is that social interaction can develop skills such as confidence in various settings. The positives of social development touches on the 40 developmental assets of positive youth development. Empowerment being the main one in my own opinion. What is relevant and important for present purposes is the prominence given to the interactions among individuals (Becker, 1974). Giving youth the chance to make their own decisions and cooperate with one another to come to a conclusion about a problem is a great way for social interaction. The sense of leadership and feeling important can strive them forward and also allows each member of a group to voice an opinion.

I would like to reiterate the point that youth spend too much time in front of a screen as opposed to being outdoors. I remember only 10-15 years ago I would leave the house at 9am, come home for a sandwich at 1/2pm and go straight back out until late hours of the night. I hated staying in the house, but now it seems that the common trend is to interact with social media and cell phones. I know I am one of those screen zombies nowadays, but I’d like to think that my generation of youth will realize the importance of being with friends and surrounding themselves in an active environment. Physical activity and social interaction are 2 very important aspects of life, the latter seems to be slowly on the decline in today’s youth. Let’s hope for better things to come.

References & Links

Social Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary. (2016). Retrieved September 27, 2016, from

Becker, Gary S. (1974) “A Theory of Social Interactions” Journal of Political Economy, 82, 6, 1063-1093

Ryan, R., & Deci, E. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68-78.

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4 Responses to Social Development: A trait learned through Positive Youth Development

  1. johareid says:

    I definitely agree with what you have to say Robbie. I believe people are behind screens way too much now a day, but to them, it’s natural and okay. I also believe youth don’t see the harm in sticking behind screens so much. Remembering the article on “Generation Z” in class, I agree with it about how maybe these youths could be smarter because of multitasking.
    Thinking about the sports I participate in right now, at a University level, there are athletes who are always checking their phones during a water break, until we begin practice, and as soon as practice has concluded. I’ve even noticed people who are walking on the streets continually on their technology devices, even when they are crossing the street! It’s not just the younger generations who are always on the phone. We’ve all become accustomed to it and I can’t say I haven’t. And honestly, I don’t think we’ll ever see this change with all the new technology being adapted.

    Johanna R.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Great job Robbie, I really agree with what you have said in your post. There is a great concern when thinking about how attached we are to our phones and social media now.

    Working at a summer camp for children where we are outside all day long we had to put in place rules so that they were no longer allowed to bring electronic devices to the camp since that’s all the children wanted to be doing. They were taking pictures and posting them, ect. which is not only distracting for the leaders of the camp but also plays a role in confidentiality. I am sure as soon as the children go home from camp at the end of the day they are on their devices and in-front of a screen again like you had noted, but at least for that time at camp they are outside and interacting with other children and having fun.

    Another point that you had made was the fact that people are nervous and not confident getting up and speaking to groups of people. I agree that screen time probably has something to do with this. Children are not used to interacting with people in person and are used to messaging back and forth when they need something, even if the person is in the same room as them. We need to get people interacting face to face or in a few years we will have a big problem with people not even knowing how to have a normal conversation!

    You have brought up a lot of points and it was really relative to not only what we are talking about in class but also what is happening around us today with youth! Great job.

    Stephanie W.

  3. Alex Watts says:

    I agree 100% with what’s been said. Great post overall, Robbie.

    I personally have experience as a senior instructor at a hockey school. And as a general rule, we allowed “No electronic devices” during the days. We encouraged parents to avoid letting their children bring electronic devices such as phones and tablets and whatnot to the rink. One of the big take-away’s from going to a week long camp is the interaction amongst instructors and other kids in the camp. Very rarely would it come to the point where electronic devices were becoming an obstacle, or an unnecessary distraction from the programs the kids were participating in. Without this social interaction amongst kids and instructors, it also becomes slightly more difficult for kids to learn these fundamental skills as well.

    I’ve also coached hockey in the past, at multiple levels and ages. One thing that I have always found to be effective with respect to team building is having a “phone bucket” at the rink, whether the team is there for a game or a practice. I personally find that there is much more interaction and team building amongst players when players aren’t spending the majority of time before practice or a game with their faces aimed at the floor looking at phone screens. One of the big things that playing team sports is supposed to build on is teamwork. I believe that teamwork works best when it’s natural, and not forced. Of course, this “phone bucket” method works better with some age groups than others. I also find it interesting to see the parents reactions when I suggest a phone bucket. Some love the idea, while others will make time to e-mail, call, or talk following a game/practice to tell me that i’m “crossing the line”.

    Again, way to hit the nail on the head Robbie.
    Alex W.

  4. James W. says:

    Nice post Robbie!

    As I sit here in front of my laptop screen and type this response, I do agree wholeheartedly with what you wrote in terms of the general public, and more specifically youth, getting too much screen time. Although, certain technologies do allow us to be more “social” they certainly have their downfalls. In many cases, various forms of technology permit people to connect with one another where face to face contact in impossible. For those instances, I believe technology to be a wonderful thing.

    However, as you expertly eluded to in your article, technology certainly has its cons. Although we are easily “connected” to one another online through multiple different “social” media platforms, we lose a central aspect of communication, a physical and present aspect.

    Without being face to face with someone, reading their body languages and picking up on the subtleties of a conversation, one does not garner the same benefits of the social experience.

    I think you bring up an excellent point about using sports as a tool to cultivate personal interactions. Sports are an excellent venue to learn valuable experience physically interacting with peers.

    I wonder if there should be stricter guidelines concerning screen time for youth? Who would be tasked with enforcing these rules? And has there been any recent research outlining the negatives effects of excessive screen time on youth development?

    Definitely a touchy subject, but you brought an excellent opinion and great research to the discussion.

    Great article Robbie,


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